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Alfridi takes Turin by storm

Alfridi wins women's 20km race in Torino (Peter Thompson AMS-IAAF)Alfridi wins women's 20km race in Torino (Peter Thompson AMS-IAAF) © Copyright

Erica Alfridi shed her bridesmaid’s image to win after one of the most exciting races in World Cup history.

After nearly 12 years, the Italian swapped her near but no win record for first place in front of an excited home crowd.

However, the 34-year-old has vowed to try and add the Olympic crown to this success.

”I want to be in good shape for Athens and will continue in a sport I’m passionate about.

”I never thought I had the race won even though I was in good form. I had to hold back all the time and was surprised it wasn’t a faster race."

If the Italian women had been watching the pace judgment of it men – it didn’t show in the opening kilometre.

Alfridi, led the customary stampede up the course and a group of 20 came through the first lap in 8:49.

By lap three the eventual winner had been joined by Elizabetta Perrone, the entire Russian team and 15 others.Their 5k split was a pushy 22:17 given the heat which had already made holes in the field elsewhere.

By the next time the leaders passed the scoreboard, it was amazingly down to five with Norway’s Kjersti Tysse-Platzer three metres off the pace and five more slightly further back.

The first casualty was Ireland’s Gillian O’Sullivan who had claimed a fine fourth in the European championships. Her DNF through a knee injury was a surprise but it seemed as if the women were determined to outdo the men in terms of forcing the pace.

The 16:30pm start meant the sun had dropped slightly behind some of the ornate buildings in Turin, but at 10k the 44:33 split still saw 10 in contention.

The casualties mounted and at 15k the spearhead was down to six.

Alfridi had already picked up two DQ cards as early as 8k, but after settling down looked to be in little danger of getting a disastrous third.

It was to herald one of the most exciting last kilometres ever.
At the final turn the race was clearly going to be between just three.

World and European champion Olimpiada Ivanova had been biding her time tucked in the middle of the leading group, but now finally decided to make her bid for home.

Alfridi refused to give an inch as did Natalya Fedoskina.
The two Russians briefly held sway before the Italian drew level. Then it was her turn to forge a winning lead but Ivanova quickly checked the surge as Fedoskina wilted.

Ivanova started to stretch the elastic and it appeared as if the home crowd would have to settle for second.

Barely 50 metres from the line Alfrdi, her face contorted with effort, emptied the tank to charge over the line to be bowled over while locked in her excited mother’s arms. Ivanova nearly joined the human heap as both she and Fedoskina filled the first three places four seconds apart.

Russia’s team victory was assured with former Olympic champion Yelena Nikolayeva fourth and Sydney silver-medallist Tysse-Platzer fifth.

Ivanova added: “it’s been a long season and Alfridi was always going to be a strong contender, but we knew we would be good enough to get gold for the team.”